09 February 2017

Ringers and Ward Ball Don't Mix

I played Ward Ball tonight.  I wasn't going to, but I really needed to get some exercise.  I figured if nothing else, I could run up and down the court along the side and act like I have never played the game before in my life.  Sadly, that wasn't too far off from what actually happened.

Now Ward Ball is done by neighborhood.  Whoever is in your neighborhood is who you get.  The only exception to this is if you bring a friend who is unaffiliated with any other Ward Ball teams.  Bringing in a Ringer can be really nice, but things can get pretty ugly pretty fast with someone with real skill.

Why is that?

To understand that, I need to delve back into a little history.  This is the kind of history which is studied in Cultural Anthropology.  Each man was once a boy and boys tend to have big dreams.  Believe it or not, those dreams never really go away.  This dream, among the hundred, is to be a major basketball star.  

Looking at the NBA today, the smallest guys on the team make up the largest guys on the team in Ward Ball.  This does not stop these "big men" from thinking that they really are 7 foot tall and can play at an extremely high level.  They think this...

The dream continues to be there, but life happens too.  Fast forward a few years and now you have a lot of pent up rage.  Family life, job stress, no exercise, eating too much.  All of this is bottled up inside the Ward Ball player.  He steps on the court and suddenly becomes a completely different human being.  It's time to re-live the glory days.  Only problem is, there are 9 other guys out there thinking the exact same thing.

Conflict is inevitable.

But generally speaking, most of the guys handle it pretty well.  There are the hotheads.  The team keeps an eye on them.  There are the elbow-throwers, cheap shots, dirty players, and it's weird because these guys are supposed to be these great, spiritual examples for others to emulate.  But Ward Ball just switches them on like they are sleeper cells.

When bringing a friend to play, it can be very enjoyable.  The competition is good enough to keep it fun and interesting.  However, when the friend is a Ringer, that is a problem.  There is a certain betrayal.  We have these neighborhoods with a bunch of short players.  Everyone knows each other from every other year.  Suddenly, someone brings in this 6'6" guy who is 280 lbs of complete muscle and can dunk it and is used to playing with the pros.

It's kind of like having a group of friends and you all end up marrying the girls from the town.  But then there is one guy in the group who has to go score a model from LA and it changes the dynamic.  What's that all about?  

It gets ugly when the Ringer shows up and all those guys with big dreams are now standing front and center with him.  They start hacking him, hitting hard, fouling.  He starts hacking back.  Pretty soon, fists are flying, people are yelling, cussing, spitting, red faces.  Should have stayed home and watched all that on The Bachelor.

There probably should be rules against Ringers.  But I suppose Ringers are people too.

06 November 2016

Keys: Check! Wallet: Check! Utility Belt: Uhhhhh...

The other day I was at a restaurant standing in line waiting to order.  It seems as though all the new style restaurants have people standing in line.  What?  Are we in Russia waiting to get toilet paper?  I know.  I know.  Russia is not like that anymore.  

While in these lines, I get a lot of time to think and people watch.  Granted, it is the same people over and over as the line zig zags its way toward the food.  So, unless the people are dressed in crossword puzzle attire, the people watching gets old pretty quick.

But something at this restaurant caught my eye.  Policemen were in line.  They did not have their guns drawn and they were not yelling for people to get down.  They were not flashing their badges in order to cut their way to the front.  They were just cops protecting and being served. Ha!

But then, there it was!  The Utility Belt.    

Whoa!  These guys walk around all day doing their job with Utility Belts on.  Suddenly, in my mind, I am wondering: Why don't I have a Utility Belt on?  I never have a Utility Belt on.  I don't have a Utility Belt at work.  I don't have a Utility Belt at play.  I don't sleep with a Utility Belt on.

And then depression started setting in.  What have I been doing with my life?  Here is my opportunity to be as Batman-ish as possible and I am wasting it by using what?  POCKETS????!!!

And it is not just Batman.  In Star Wars, Luke and Han dressed in the stormtrooper disguises and after the trash compactor, they kept the Utility Belts on.  They knew there would be some value with these fashionable white Utility Belts.

Looking at a cop's Utility Belt, he has everything!  A gun, a flashlight, a tazer, another gun, mace, something else that looks like a gun, handcuffs, a radio, a night stick, a baton, chewing gum, a knife, rope, a crescent wrench, a lighter, a spatula, a tire iron, and of course a light saber.

I wonder if there are special cop stores where they can go to pick up all these great accessories to go on their Utility Belts.  And looking at the Belt itself, those things look like they need somewhere nice to hang after a long day on the beat.  They couldn't just hang from a hook on the wall.  They would have to have special cop mannequins to hold the Utility Belt in place.

Now I am trying to think of how I can utilize a Utility Belt in my everyday life without looking like a freak.  There have been a few attempts throughout the years to get them on people.  Runners have belts which store water bottles and other items.  The problem there is they start resembling more of a fanny pack.  And a Utility Belt is not a fanny pack.  Can you imagine Batman stopping for a second while he digs around in this gigantic sack attached to his hip looking for a Bat poison dart?  We have just destroyed Batman with that image.

The attempt to attach the cell phone to a belt is a good start, but it does not go far enough.  How does that person start their day thinking that the only thing they need to attach to their belt is their phone?  How can this guy come to the rescue if all he is going to do is call someone?  At least if he showed up with a Swiss Army Knife attached to the other side he might look like he could help...

09 October 2016

Excuses. Excuses.

Wasn't it the greatest thing in the world when, as a kid, you discovered the ability to have an excuse?

+ You swung at the ball way over your head and struck out.
- I thought I only had one strike.

+ You are late to class.
- I didn't have any clean underwear.

+ Why didn't you clean your room?
- I lost track of time listening to DEVO.

I guess as an adult, we start to realize that all excuses are bad.  There is no good excuse.  We still try though.  At work, we can blame our co-workers.  At home, I can blame my children or my wife.  But excuses still always look bad.

Imagine the person out there who does not rely on excuses.  He/she takes the blame.  It was never anyone else's fault.  Can a person like this actually exist?

As I approach my life, I have to think about where I fall short.  

I may not be very good at doing the dishes.  What's my excuse?  I don't want to do them.  Not bad.  Simple.  Direct.  I take full responsibility.  There!

I spend too much time on my phone.  What's my excuse?  There are so many important things that could be happening on that phone.  I need to check my email for work, text messages for important items.  Everyone else is always on their phone.  To tell the truth, I think the problem here is that I have a nervous habit which involves obsessively not being bored.

I stay up too late at night.  My excuse is that I am a night owl.  TV keeps me up all night.  Sleep is never as important as watching one more episode of Grey's Anatomy....  But really, it is that I like staying up late and I like sleeping in.

We have excuses that we believe but we don't admit to them.  Often we blame our environment or our family for areas in which we fall short.  But we only do that in secret, because we could never truly blame them to their faces.  I think that is actually a bigger lie, but one which we hold to inside thinking that if the environment changes, then we will change.

When the minivan is gone, then I can be a real stud.
When the kids are grown, I can have my man cave back.
When I retire, then I can learn how to golf.
When the weather is nice, then I can mow the lawn.
When there is nothing on TV, then I will read.
When I live right next to work, then I will walk.

26 September 2016

The Conservation Reservation

I have a real dilemma when it comes to conservation.  On one hand, it is important to not waste.  Be green.  Reuse plastic items.  Recycle.  It is a very glorious cause, which helps all of us ritual-minded, OCD fanatics to feel good about ourselves despite all the people out there who just do not care at all.  

They continue to pollute and waste.  We continue to place the recyclable item in the proper plastic container.

They throw their soft drink container out the window of their car as they drive by.  We take sponge baths in the shower.

They dump their giant, flat screen tvs in the alley behind their house and go buy new, bigger ones.  We change the channel by turning the knob on the tv.

While we feel superior, I am a little concerned about the other hand. I think I am kind of gross.  

In my Star Wars lunch pail, I have about 10 sandwich bags which I refuse to throw out.  One bag for my sandwich (two slices of bread, with mustard mayo and meat.)  One bag for mixed nuts.  One bag for wheat thins.  One bag for pretzels.  One bag for chips.  One bag for animal crackers.  Yes.  I eat a lot of carbs.  One bag for grapes.  One bag for carrots.  One bag for lettuce.  I do have some healthy items too.  Is that ten yet?  It is a lot of bags.

I am torn here.  I want to help Mother Earth, but I also do not want to be like Uncle Elmo.  What makes this behavior okay in the rational world?

I also have an electric toothbrush where I am supposed to replace the head every 3 months.  Six months would be pushing it.  I think it has actually been 3 years.  What's my excuse?  We have replacements in the closet.  I clean it by hand every day.  I rinse it thoroughly, but what am I hoping to achieve?  Am I thinking that I will have halted the production of toothbrush heads by a month?  By a week?  By a day?  Okay.  Tonight I am replacing it.  The very thought of this is making me a little queasy.

Who have I become?

I have shirts that are 15 years old that I still wear, a truck which is 16 years old.  I have had the same disposable razor for 3 months.  I shop at thrift stores.  I horde cardboard.  I shave once a week.  I don't believe in anything new!

Wait!  I am Uncle Elmo.  How did this happen?  Like a nightmare I need to wake up out of.  I am Ebenezer Scrooge screaming in his bed:  "I want to live!  I want to live!  I want to fill the trash with more trash!  I want to empty my recycle bin into the regular trash!  I want to let the water run in the yard all night!  I want to let my kids draw on all the paper we have set aside for printing important documents.  I want to use styrofoam in place of all my dishes and then burn them in the backyard afterwards!

Then!  Then I will be happy!  Then I will be free!

18 September 2016

Not All Roommates Are Created Equal

We are going on seven weeks with the 4th roommate, Brindley, and it continues to be challenging.  What an obnoxious little snot she is.  She is constantly taking things from the other roommates.  She goes right in their rooms if the door is open and takes stuff into her room.  We try to talk to her about it, but it is so awkward.  The best thing I can do is quietly take it back so we don't cause a scene.

Oh, and I cannot stand her perfume.  I can hardly breathe if I get too close.  I try to be respectful, because everyone has their own scents that they like.  This one is fairly common.  I think it is called 9K9B.  It is really strong and we have to keep the fans going to keep the fresh air moving.

I should not be gossiping about her like this, but apparently she does not really know English anyway.  She seems to know the basics like Hello, Good Morning, and No.  It is like we have someone from another country staying with us and it is really strange to pick up on her odd behaviours.

She sets her alarm really early in the morning, but she does not work or anything.  She gets up and makes a lot of noise, wakes my wife and I up.  We hope the other roommates are not being woken up.  We try to talk to her about this, but with the language barrier, it is like we are talking to someone who looks at you and cocks her head.  That's uncomfortable.

But she pays her rent and does not really have any other family around.  I only wish I did not get so upset about all these incidents.  I should be doing more with my life than being concerned about a roommate who does not speak English, is kind of a klepto, and does not smell very good.  I have had roommates with those qualities before.  What did I do then?

05 September 2016

All You Need Is Love Handles

The other morning as I was getting ready, my young daughter said in her sweet little voice: 

"You look fat."

I suppose this is better than her saying that I AM fat.  Looking fat and being fat are two totally different things.

It is funny how when she said this, I took no offense to it at all (probably because I am fat.)  But I guess it is hard for me to be offended by children.  

  1. They call it like they see it.  
  2. They do not understand what calling someone fat really means in our horribly judgmental society.  

My children CANNOT know how obsessed our culture is with being skinny.  

Or maybe it is more like: My children SHOULD NOT know how obsessed our culture is with being skinny, but since our children do live in the culture, they probably pick up on quite a bit.

So there is hope that our children will have fat obsession and anxiety just like us....  

I was a pretty thin guy for many years.  Very thin.  I was not pretty and thin.  As they say, I wanted to put some meat on my bones.  Over the years, I have put on more and more meat.  But inevitably, that meat has become gristle...

Here I am approaching middle age and I think: What do I want to get to?  How do I want to look?  What should my gut look like?

Simple!  Perfection.  Society says to be perfect.

Obviously, that is not going to work.  

Why should I try to live up to impossible standards?

As I look at it, I am quite normal for a middle-aged human who sits on his butt all day at work.  I am built like my grandpa.  How can one argue with genetics?

Also, when getting out of the shower, I have to cinch the towel up to make sure it stays on.  That of course adds 20 pounds right there.  My daughter is clearly mistaken.

The other thing I have to look at is something more scientific.  When looking at tribes of people in primitive settings where they do not live on processed food and have desk jobs, I take a look at the leader and the village elders.  Typically, they are a bit overweight.  They do not have the job of the great hunter so they are relegated to watching out over the tribe and imparting their wisdom all the time.  How is that not like me?

I think it is ridiculous that we have as our standard a look which is only about the perfect age of 21 or thereabouts.  And here we are going through life trying to get back to that look.  Sure, it is commendable when someone can do it, but do I have to?

Wait.  I do have to?  Otherwise, I have to go on all sorts of heart medicine and I will be in danger of getting diabetes?  And being sick all the time?  And I will live longer if I cut out fat and do more exercise?

Okay, fine.  Tomorrow.  Tomorrow I start.

28 August 2016

A Not Very Clean, Close Shave

As teenagers, facial hair was fascinating.  That was probably because we could not grow it.  A good square goatee seemed to be the right amount of cool.  That represented something.  Beatnik heritage maybe.  I even remember my friend and I penciling goatees in one day to see how we liked it.  His was a black square which was funny because his hair was brown.  Mine was a brown triangle and my hair was much closer to black.  But alas, we had some good reactions.  Most people seemed to roll their eyes.  

+ You seem like a decent guy. Why are you going to all this trouble to be outcast?
- Because it is fun.  We are in high school.  And I am 10 years out before I will have facial hair so give me a break.

Not much longer after that, sideburns started to be possible.  And that seemed like a pretty good alternative to the goatee.  The establishment did not really go for goatees back then.  Getting a job in the service industry since I had no education required staying pretty conservative.  Short hair, no facial hair.  Maybe a well-trimmed mustache.  

Hmmm.  Mustaches.  I am a little torn on mustaches.  My Dad always had a great mustache.  And for years, it was just a mustache.  But outside of my Father, I could never grasp the mustache working for anyone.  Besides that, I could never grow one.  To this day, mine is still so weak that it takes me a month for someone to finally say: "Are you trying to grow a mustache?"

But yeah.  The establishment was not real big on long hair and facial hair and chest hair.  They did not want "dirtbags" going into rich people's homes and buffing their floors or setting their tile or fixing their stoves.  I understand that.  I am guessing that is still the case.  I will have to ask my rich friends.  Oh wait!  I don't have any, because my friends all have facial hair.  Is that the correlation?

So sideburns were really looking like the winner for me.  Good long mutton chops.  Okay, I could never really get those, but I could get a decent sideburn going.  Not thick, but enough to make it look continuous from above.  I was pretty happy with this road.  I figured I could live a good healthy, long life with some sideburns.  I could wear white t-shirts with rolled up jeans, go for that greaser, 50's style look.  Just listen to Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, drive an Edsel around...

Then, tragedy struck.  Sideburns no longer work when your head is BALD!!!!

What made sideburns work is the idea of the continuous look.  The hair on top making its way down to some sweet Star Trek points.  But I have to shave my head now.  What?  Am I going to have sideburns starting at mid-ear, going down 3 inches and then to what?  I got these two islands of hair on my face that look like I just tattooed some trapezoids on my cheeks.  It looks ridiculous.

I could try to not shave the sides and back of my head to make way for the sideburns.  But then I am seventies bald.  Sure, the continuous thing works on the sides, but no continuousness on the top.  I like to think of myself as artistic, but that look requires someone with some real panache.  That person has to think of himself as extremely hip and forward thinking.  And he cannot care what anyone thinks... including himself.

While that is my goal to eventually be that hip and forward-thinking guy, I am resolved for now, while I try to function in actual society, to going back to... 

the goatee.  

The goatee works now because I can actually grow one, it is centered, and it makes me feel like a teenager desperately trying to look older...